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21 The Search it is a Changin

coffeeCurrently, it seems like there is a lot going on in the world of search that is pretty exciting for the typical user. Today I would like to point out a few changes I’ve noticed and what they might mean for your SEM and SEO efforts.

Visual Search – images seem to be getting more and more important in the search world. I don’t know if it’s a function of the fact that no one likes to read of if images are being used digitally (say as phone wallpaper) much as they were in print fashion years ago. It’s always been a good idea to optimize your images online, say with a file name and alt attribute that describe the content, but with Google’s changes to their image search engine it’s probably more useful than ever. Also, check out how Bing is displaying images with its Visual Search feature – this is a Bing search for Pulitzer winning fiction

A Feisty Competitor – And speaking of Bing, depending upon the research you choose Bing and proposed combination of Bing results for Yahoo search could start to put a dent in the once thought impossible Google search share. Bing users are finding the comparison shopping and travel, including airfare prediction feature very attractive. It’s certainly time to plug in and make sure your sitemap and other functions are playing well with Bing

Would you like a biscotti with that? – Lastly, Google is poised to release an update to its search algorithm so substantial they are making the rounds promoting it and allowing developers to play with it to experiment with results. The update is dubbed caffeine. The big promise is better results, faster results and real time results. The search engine optimization community always get very nervous during these updates but many signs point to the fact that if you produce lots of high quality content you’ll be fine. Although, take note (and I’ve been suggesting this for some time), social media content seems to becoming even more important for ranking purposes. I do also think that page load will get more emphasis so I would run your pages through the YSlow tool to get suggestions on speeding up page loads. You can play with search results in caffeine right now and see how your site will fare in a split screen mode of Google vs Google Caffeine Rank Tool. Google’s search voice Matt Cutts also shares views on Caffeine

12 Yahoo Pipes a Smokin Radar Tool

Yahoo Pipes is a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web. Frankly, it has been around for a couple of years now and while it’s advanced a bit, I don’t think it has ever really caught on in a big way. The interface is a little funky and takes some getting use to, but once you do, it’s a pretty cool tool.

Pipes can do some very complex things, but what I think it does better than most other options is allow you to aggregate, sort and filter many RSS feeds into one. So, you might be asking at this moment, why would I want to do that.

I can think of number of reasons pretty quickly:

  • Monitor mentions of your brand across multiple sources
  • Monitor mentions of your competitors
  • Monitor specific topics of discussion across the web
  • Aggregate the columns of key journalists you want to influence
  • String the blogs of your strategic partners into one feed


The image above is an example of output from a Yahoo Pipe for Duct Tape Marketing

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60 The Changing Face of SEO

Search engine optimization has changed dramatically over the past few years.

The shift is from one of web page optimization and link hounding to content and engagement optimization. In short, search engine optimization and social media are now undeniably intertwined. It has become extremely difficult to achieve any measure of success for important keyword phrases without the use of social media. (Of course the flip side to that is organizations that take advantage of social media can dominate, particularly within industries slow to adapt.)

content optimization

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12 Two Accounts You Must Have to Play

Yahoo and Google accountsIt seems like I log in to dozens of accounts all day as I market my business, use online and social media tools and participate in social networking communities.

Although it may feel like I bounce from place to place it finally dawned on me that most of my online business needs are increasingly met with just two accounts. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but I do know you must have access to the tools housed in these two places if you want to play in today’s online world.

Google – gmail, Goodle docs, Google Calendar, Google Reader, Feedburner, AdWords, Analytics, Alerts

Yahoo – delicious, flickr, mybloglog, stumbleupon, upcoming

So, when one of these two buys, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress we may see a single sign on for life.

13 The Search Engines Want to Know You Better

Google, Yahoo and MSNLive are just itching to get to know more about your website and they are steadily adding tools to make it easier for you to tell them more, learn more and analyze just what’s going on in their world when it comes to your websites.

Time was when figuring out how to get your site listed by the search engines was a mysterious sort of witchcraft (or at least that what some folks wanted you believe.) The search engines want to return the best results they possibly can when people use their engines so it just makes sense for them to make it easier for your content to go through the indexing process as a possible candidate for search engine results.

Google’s newly updated submit center ties together many of the ways you might submit content to Google.

Go visit and consume the content on the following sites and you will gain a great education on how and why to focus more attention on organic search results.

The Webmaster tools

The official search blogs

2 Social Search Gaining Steam

yelpSocial search directories, basically search engines that allow members to rate and review listings, are getting more and more popular as people move their Internet surfing mobile.

Getting restaurant reviews by zip code when you’re out with friends or finding a veterinarian when traveling has become a one button task on the newest generation of phones – of course, then just push another button and get a directions, coupons or place a call.

The primary search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN are also pulling reviews from listings on social search directories as a way to add content to their local directories. If you’ve either ignored getting listed or just didn’t know about these types of site, now is the time to invest some time and a small amount of money to make sure you get listed, found and reviewed.

Here are some of the primary candidates for your social search strategy

Each of the above directories has either built or is in the process of building applications to reside on the home screen of iPhones and other smart phones.

These social business directories are getting into the “location aware” act as well. With new phone coming equipped with GPS capabilities, services are being built that can tell where your phone is and deliver services and information based on that.

Yelp just launched their location aware application for iPhone users that pull up business reviews based on your phone’s location. You know, it just might be a good idea to make sure your business is listed and getting some good reviews in the Yelps of the world. This type of business search in only going to get bigger!

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8 Google Keyword Tool Now Offers Search Volume

One of the first successful PPC ad systems was service called Overture. One of the most popular features of this service was a tool called the Search Suggestion Tool. Anyone online back in say 2002-2003 used this tool a bunch to help determine what search phrases received the most traffic. This was one very simple DIY tool.

When Yahoo bought out Overture the tool languished and eventually went away. In my opinion this was a big mistake on the part of Yahoo. (But that’s a conversation for another day)

Click on the screenshot below to see full size

Google Keyword Search ToolGoogle recently enhanced their keyword suggestion tool and added search volume and some measure of competitiveness. The reason the PPC engines offer tools like this is to help people get better at bidding on search terms and offer suggestions for more terms to bid on. Serious PPC folks use this tool to help determine bid amounts and bid on thousands of search terms. (If you have an AdWords account this tool is built into your dashboard.)

I’ve found that this tool is also a nice, low effort way to get some ideas for keyword phrases for your web pages and blog posts. The tool offers suggestions for ways that people are really searching in your industry and might spark some ideas for blog headlines. Of course, for local businesses, this can be a great way to identify terms that you might want to add your city name to.

19 Stumped for content?

Yahoo AnswersContent is the commerce of social media. But, relevant content, the stuff your customers and prospects actually want to know is the gold. Constantly cranking out this gold can sometimes present creative challenges.

So how do you know what to write about, how do you keep the ideas flowing, how do you keep the content relevant and popular.

There a number of ways to address these important questions, not the least of which is simply paying attention to what your prospects and customers ask on the daily basis. There’s another tool that not many small business know much about, but is a wealth of great content ideas.

The service is called Yahoo Answers. Millions of people go to Yahoo Answers to get answers to questions on just about every topic known to man. Yahoo members are free to answer these questions and then even earn points for participation and developing a reputation for good answers. I’m not sure working your tail off answering all kinds of questions is the best use of your time (although you may actually come across opportunities to interact with people looking to buy what you sell) but, I have found that the questions posed on your particular subject of expertise can provide some tremendous research for blog topics. If a number of people are asking the same questions, and they are, then maybe the market is ripe for your blog post addressing the question.

The questions are broken down into many searchable categories. In addition, if you find the occasional question that you have already thoroughly addressed on your blog you can step up and provide an answer on the Yahoo Answer page and cite your blog post as the resource for your answer. If your answer is considered particularly helpful, this can send some additional traffic (no link juice though) your way.

21 Using images in SEO

Search engines, and Google in particular through its Universal Search initiative, are making great strides towards delivering multi-media search engine results. Images, audio, and video links are being sprinkled into certain types of searches. The tough part about this desire is that it can be hard for a search spider to determine the actual content or intent or a photo or video. But, that’s where you come in.

Actively using images as part of your overall optimization strategy can pay dividends.

The first step is to make certain that you use the ALT attribute in your website HTML. Further adding descriptive captions in the text around a your photos is another standard practice.

FlickrTo take this thought up a notch, however, you should consider creating images pages on social media sites and optimizing those pages as well.

The first place to go in my opinion is – Flickr, owned by Yahoo, is one of several photo sharing sites. Other popular ones include Picasa, owned by Google and Photobucket. These sites allow you to create accounts and they upload your photos for sharing publicly or with friends.

All of these services have created sets of tools that allow you to tag and describe your photos. Most people use these as a way to sort, categorize and find their photos, but marketers can use these tools to perhaps create some interesting search juice.

Flickr, for example, allows you to create a separate page for each photo. This page has meta tags you choose – title, description and keyword tags as well as H1 title, and keyword anchor text backlinks. You can view an example page here featuring my Ultimate Marketing System product. This is not simply a ploy to point out my products, the point is to show you how this tactic creates a well opitimized page and photo on a highly indexed website, pointing to my product. This page will get indexed and may rank highly on its own. (Right click and view the source code on this page and have a look at the meta tags data)

This is a potentially potent way to create some nicely optimized backlinks to your site and generate page views of your products, events, announcements, people, and activities. Once you know how to navigate around Flickr it’s pretty easy to create lots of these pages. Don’t forget to take advantage of the geo tagging that allows you to create local content.

    Here’s your recipe for success with this idea

  • Upload lots of decently composed images
  • Create strong, keyword rich, unique titles for each photo
  • Tag each photo with your most important keywords
  • Write good descriptions and add a link to your site with keyword anchor text
  • Make sure the photos are publicly viewable – it’s a check box option
  • Submit the photo pages to other social sites such as delicious

It’s great if you have riveting images with tons of viral potential, but this works wonders for any well taken image.

8 Google wins

yahooLots of stories in the news today about the proposed Yahsoft/Microhoo takeover and even some folks pondering if Google is now in real big trouble. My guess is the folks at Google are cheering today. My take is that Microsoft is admitting defeat by trying to buy there way out of it. Yahoo! has been scuffling of late and has never been a better deal, but is putting two companies together that can’t really figure out how to compete with Google going to make one company that can?

Why do companies continue to believe that If you put two dogs together you get a pony? ~ Jon Fine, Business Week media columnist

My fear is that Yahoo! will fight this (heck, Google may help them) and the bid may go up if someone like AT&T jumps in, but no way this deal gets done in under a year. That will likely mean that Yahoo and Microsoft both drift while trying to put this together and Google’s position in both of their businesses gets stronger. I’m not even factoring in the massive amount of effort it would take to actually merge these companies. I’m really surprised how few people in the media took this position.

Now, having said all that, I don’t know if a stronger Google is really a good thing, but I think this move by Microsoft may actually benefit Google more in the long run.